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Building the Natura 2000 network

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Natura 2000 is a European network of important ecological sites underpinned by the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) and the Habitats Directive (EEC/92/43). In compliance with Art.4 of the Birds Directive, EU Member States are required to designate Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to protect bird species listed in Annex I of the Directive as well as migratory species. In compliance with Art.3 and 4 of the Habitats Directive, Member States have to first propose Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) for habitat-types listed in Annex I and species listed in Annex II of the Directive. They further have to designate them as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). SPAs and SCIs-SACs form the Natura 2000 network.

ETC/BD support to the European Commission in the implementation of the Natura 2000 network mainly focuses on the Habitats Directive component of the network. The ETC/BD assists the European Commission in analysing SCIs proposals by Member States and building the Union List of SCIs. National authorities send their proposals to EC using the agreed format called Standard Data Form (SDF).

The databases are then forwarded to the European Environment Agency (EEA) to check the quality and completeness of the data. A report listing any technical problem (e.g. empty fields or data not in compliance with the SDF) is sent to the corresponding Member State with request for completing and/or correcting the database.

Using the Natura 2000 database, the ETC/BD prepares "Union lists of SCI” for each biogeographical region following the process described in Annex III Stage 2 of the Habitats Directive. The evaluation process is described in more detail in the following document published by DG Environment (Hab. 97/2 rev. 4 18/11/97). The list of selected sites, priority features, areas and co-ordinates of each site, is validated by each Member State within the relevant biogeographical region and published as a Commission decision in the Official Journal.

The representation and level of protection of Annex I habitats and Annex II species sites proposed by a Member State is then evaluated at the biogeographical level. The ETC/BD prepares a set of draft conclusions regarding the sufficiency of the contribution of the proposed SCIs to the conservation status of the targeted habitats and species. When needed, bilateral meetings or biogeographical seminars chaired by the EC DG Environment and gathering ETC/BD, Member States and other interested parties including Non Governmental Organisations (NGO), are organized to discuss remaining insufficiencies in site designations. Discussions are framed by two working documents:

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